The Proud and Principled Malays vs The Money-Obsessed Chinese

By batsman 

Recently there have been quite a few articles claiming that the word Melayu means runaway or refugee in Javanese. If these claims are true then it is quite easy to understand the psyche of the Malays. With the following, I hope I am adding to RPK’s article about the Proud and Principled Malays rather than making subtractions.

If the Malays are refugees from abusive ancient kingdoms of SE Asia, it is with great fortune that they found security and safety in the Land of the Refugees – Tanah Melayu. In time they started new lives without too many connections to their old communities and origins, made a home here and established great kingdoms of their own but I submit that the Malay culture and psyche has not forgotten its refugee past. The Sumatran prince who founded Melaka was a refugee. Even though the Bugis princes who came to Johore and Selangor may be called adventurers, but what propelled them from their home shores may not be totally seeking thrills and fortune. 

Later still, more waves of refugees and adventurers came from further afield – from China and India. All these cultures more or less accepted each others’ presence and lived in peace with the odd grab for power that makes history so much more exciting. All these cultures carry the imprint of their refugee past. 

For the Chinese, they reacted to their refugee conditions by ignoring everything else except making money. This was their ticket to escaping from misery and poverty. The Chinese psyche reacted to being refugees by turning inward (some might even say “becoming cowardly”). After all, there were many more hungry mouths to feed back in China apart from the ones here. Needless to say, such a culture and psyche has consequences for the future of Malaysia and framed the conditions we find ourselves in today. 

However, it does not mean that running amok is a monopoly of Malay culture. If the Chinese are pushed into a corner and prevented from making money, then in all likelihood we may yet see the Chinese version of running amok. But this scenario has yet to happen and the Chinese are still making good money in Malaysia due to wise government policies (even if the Cina Baru no longer have any hungry mouths to feed back in China, there are still plenty of greedy mouths to feed here). 

After all, the Chinese are still quite capable of fully taking up their quotas of government bonds (in fact I think it is silly of the government to impose quotas on the Chinese and should take as much money as the Chinese can cough up – after all the MACC, police, judges and civil servants need to be paid and development projects in Sabah and Sarawak need to be funded). 

The Malays on the other hand reacted to refugee conditions in a more outwardly manner – by placing their egos into an “altar-ego” (as opposed to alter ego). Everything they are in real life becomes unimportant and it is only the “altar-ego” that must remain pure and unsullied. As refugees, being abused and bullied in real life, being cheated in real life and being lied to in real life is still tolerable. Tanah Melayu is not the last refuge, even if there is nowhere else to go. The pride and dignity of the Malays is the last refuge. 

So it is that the pride and dignity of the Malays must be protected at all costs, even if the Malays are often quarrelling amongst themselves. In fact as RPK points out often, the Malays have always been quarrelling and fighting amongst themselves, but this is unimportant as long as the pride and dignity of the Malays are preserved. 

Who better to be the keeper of Malay pride and dignity than UMNO? Even the Malays Rulers cannot compete with UMNO in this field, for while the Malay Rulers are only constitutional rulers, UMNO forms the government of the day and possess all the real power that it needs to protect Malay pride and dignity, including the ISA and Sedition Acts. 

So in reality, whilst Malays often quarrel amongst themselves and are able to ignore the worst abuses of power and corruption, Malay pride and dignity must remain pure and intact. In fact, it seems that the worse the abuse of power and the more sinful the corruption, the more the Malays rally round to protect their pride and dignity as if the desperate truth needed to be offset by even greater pride and dignity. 

The question then arises, why is it that Malays quarrel amongst themselves? This is not a strange matter at all. In fact the Chinese also quarrel endlessly and unremittingly amongst themselves, although they seem not to care so much for pride and dignity but more for money. As such most people say that it is usually a quarrel over money or power, but I like to think that it is also a quarrel over good versus evil. 

I like to think that the Malays became refugees not because they were bad people, but because they were good people – people who stood up against injustice and corruption. This is shown by the way they accepted other refugees from alien lands and strange cultures who came later. In a way Malays also quarrel amongst themselves over how they think people of other cultures should be treated. 

I am not an expert on why Malays quarrel amongst themselves, preferring not to think about these things, but it would seem to me that there is also a generational gap involved that has not been analysed adequately yet. 

50 or more years ago, Malays were nearer to their refugee past and they showed great sympathy for refugees of alien lands and accepted them in their midst. Back then, Malays were dirt poor and they had no problems mixing with people of alien cultures. Back then everybody’s contribution was valued and any positive discrimination was capped by a time limit. 

Today, 50 years farther from their refugee past, a new generation of Malays are now richer and more comfortable. Of course there are still dirt poor Malays. Maybe this is one of the reasons why Malays still quarrel amongst themselves, but this is beside the point for the moment. 

A new generation of Malays who have become rich now want their wealth and power to be guaranteed forever. Individuals want guaranteed wealth and power. Individual families want guaranteed wealth and power. These Melayu Baru are not the same as their forefathers 50 or more years ago. The people are not the same, the values are not the same and even the culture is not the same. They don’t even identify with their poorer compatriots anymore except during election time. 

Perhaps it is with the realization that Malays must stop quarrelling amongst themselves and that people of different races and cultures must stop quarrelling between themselves that the 1Malaysia concept was started. But I think there are fatal weaknesses both in the concept and in the implementation. Checks and balances have not been properly institutionalized and the civil service has not been made politically neutral and there are apparently no plans or any intention for doing so. Other people may think otherwise and disagree vehemently. Maybe that is why the quarrels continue? 

In the meantime, it is good that the government can depend on a good take-up of government bonds to continue the economic development, prosperity and enrichment of the country under a government which treats checks and balances as a small nuisance and criticism as a seditious threat to national security.